Seeing the Need
Amber, a resident service coordinator with Carbondale Towers in Carbondale, IL, learned about St. Louis Area Foodbank delivering services to the Murphysboro Food Pantry not long ago. She took it upon herself to contact The Foodbank to see if they’d consider driving a few more miles to offer a mobile market to the nearly 300 residents where she worked. As HUD housing, Carbondale Towers offers affordable living to people with physical and intellectual disabilities and those aged 62-plus.
While making a trip to the grocery store has been a challenge during this pandemic for the majority of people, it has become nearly impossible for many of the residents at Carbondale Towers. Whether it’s due to a lack of transportation or compromised immune systems, many residents also rely on state-mandated caregivers who typically help with grocery shopping and other duties but have been unable to help as much during the pandemic, according to Joanna, another residential service coordinator.
A New Partnership
After crunching a few numbers, the Foodbank said yes to forming a new partnership with Carbondale Towers. As of this writing, the Foodbank has made three trips since the end of March to help deliver fresh food to the residents.
Since then, St. Louis Area Foodbank “has been a Godsend,” said Joanna. “Our residents are so thankful for the food they get. And some of it is items they would never pick out for themselves because of the cost.” In the previous two mobile markets, Amber shared the staff had sorted the food and set out door-to-door to hand-deliver each box of food throughout the large complex, “that took us all day.”
Fresh Food for All
This time they decided it would be more efficient to have the food in one spot for the residents to come through at a safe distance. On this particular rain-soaked, late-May day, residents began eagerly lining up before the 11 a.m. start time. All of them donned facemasks and distanced themselves from one another as the line eventually snaked down and around the long sidewalk. The Foodbank truck arrived just before 11 a.m. wheeling in pallets of food to an area with an overhang just in case the ominous-looking skies opened up.
Fortunately, the rain held off, and during the first 2 hours of the market at least 120 residents, some dressed up matching their face mask to their headscarf while others came in slippers and pajama bottoms. Many in line were there to pick up food for their apartment neighbor as well. Most brought their own cart or wagon — one person craftily bungeed a large wastebasket to an upright dolly. Everyone patiently filtered through the line to pick up the preassembled bags of produce filled with items such as carrots, potatoes, celery, bell peppers, oranges, apples, zucchini, cabbage, and the showstopper of the day — watermelon.
And, just in case it would be needed, the Victory Dream Center food pantry, another partner of the Foodbank, is just down the road to accept any remaining food.